Cold for the Homeless: Heading to our First Winter in the Bus
I have such a long way to go. It has taken me 28 years to earnestly feel happy for another persons accomplishments, but I did make it. That isn't to say that I don't see what other people are accomplishing and think, "how much money does it take to be you?" or "I could do so much more if i had what you had," but today I thought about how someone I knew had been doing well in triathalons, and felt "that's so awesome. She is kicking ass." That is progress. I'll categorize this under the progress category of this blog, and hopefully it doesn't just sit there alone.
Today, after several hours in the gym, we are going to install more insulation in the bus. The two solar panels really helped, but the other night was a good indicator of just how cold it is going to be this winter in this thing. We've made it work since April - about half a year now. Luckily, we are both very committed to experiencing what this is like year around. I told myself that I would never use names, so I'll say that my boyfriend had a very astute observation about the way in which we live, and how people respond. He said that people treat us like criminals. I don't disagree. We have been run off, confronted in force, had people bang on our windows in the middle of the night, and tell us that we can't stay - in many different locations. Now, I want to emphasize that we are quiet, and generally get to bed by 9pm, often getting up early to ride or workout. We have jobs, pay our taxes, vote, have health insurance, and donate often. We are contributing members of society, more so than others who live in traditional homes. And yet, we are still treated as criminals.
Before I continue, I want to say that my perspective on homelessness has evolved much over the years. My ignorance when I was younger resulted in a sort of disgust with homelessness. Disgust with laziness, and only the lazy would end up homeless. In no way would we have anything in common. I work too hard, and prefer wholesome activities to drugs. Pretentious little shit. That isn't to say that many adults without perspective continue to view homelessness this way. Later, as I had family members rely on the very institutions that I saw as detestable, my feeling of resentments and separation only deepened. For a time. For the sake of keeping this post on point, I will fast forward through the difficult years of realizing that I too am human, and as such, am not perfect. That was and is not an easy lesson. Now, back to being a criminal. Those individuals that we would normally have identified with - neighbors with porches, mail, children, jobs they hate, drunks - no longer identify with us. We are the insiders with an outsiders lifestyle, but no one can see that we still exist as insiders.
NO ONE CAN SEE WHAT WE DO, JUST HOW WE LIVE. AND THEY DO NOT LIKE US BECAUSE OF IT. THEY FEEL THREATENED, THOUGH WE HAVE DONE NOTHING WRONG.
And yes, maybe they have had bad experiences with people who live in vans or alternative means of living, but I would argue that most have not. I would also argue that they are conditioned that way, as I was conditioned that way. They dispute us and confront us because they were told for years that people who live like we do are not to be trusted. And all I want to do is shout that we are normal! And I finally saw that perhaps homeless people would want to shout the same thing.
I am not presuming to say that I understand, but my perspective has shifted. What I will also say is that not every lesson we are taught is made to keep us safe - instead some are made to keep us controlled. Some are made to make sure that we adhere. And those lessons are so ingrained, that people will go out of their way to protect themselves from others whom did not intend to do them any harm. "I'll shoot you before you shoot me - even though I have not seen your gun, I know you have one. I know I am right."